Bus Features, Bus Safety, Charging Infrastructure, Electric Buses

How the states are working towards the zero-emissions transition

ABC chats to four states about how they’re juggling the infrastructure challenges involved with the zero-emissions change in the Australian bus and coach industry

Just a few years ago, the initial goals mapped out for the Australian bus and coach industry’s zero-emissions transition seemed like miniscule blots in the distance. Now, these deadlines are looming large on the horizon, with many Australian state and territory governments beginning to progress on meeting their decarbonisation targets.

So what’s slowing the progression towards a sustainable bus and coach transport future? ABC reached out to all Australian state and territory governments to determine the inner workings of their individual bus and coach transitions. Four states responded and outlined the key issues that they’re working through to have sufficient zero-emissions bus infrastructure ready to meet upcoming targets.

New South Wales

Currently, the largest zero-emissions bus fleet in Australia operates in New South Wales, with the state government and Transport for NSW (Transport) combining to run 130 buses in service, with 127 of these in Greater Sydney and the other three in Newcastle. Under its Zero Emission Buses (ZEB) program, roughly 8,300 buses will be transitioned to sustainable technology to meet the state government’s net zero-emissions target by 2050.

“The first stage of the NSW ZEB program involves introducing 1,219 new electric buses to services for Greater Sydney customers by 2028,” Transport ZEB program director Andrew Milne told ABC.

“As part of the first stage, 11 existing bus depots will be converted to battery electric technology to support the new electric fleet, while a new electric bus depot will be built in Macquarie Park.”

With the expressions of interest for the design and construction of the state’s Macquarie Park Depot now closed, the successful tenderer will be appointed later this year and construction will begin next year with the end goal of completion in late 2027. Coinciding with this infrastructure focus is Transport’s first multiple electric bus order that is part of the Greater Sydney Stage 1 transition and the ongoing bus replacement program.

State governments have different approaches to developing zero-emissions infrastructure

Transport has audacious goals – it intends to complete the transition in Greater Sydney by 2035, in outer metropolitan regions by 2040 and then in regional NSW by 2047. For such long-term objectives, it has a long-term focus, with Transport looking to order new buses, deliver infrastructure and transition at a steady rate to prevent a production cliff where orders drop at the end of the transition and leave manufacturers in a lurch.

“Delivering a staged transition means new technology innovations can be assessed along the way, so decisions made at each state of the rollout capture the latest technology innovation, performance and lessons learned,” Milne says.

In Greater Sydney, where the transition is currently underway, nine operators are managing more than 4,000 buses. Once this wide-scale change has been made, Transport has to adjust to the completely different regional landscape, where more than 400 operators run regional bus routes, many with fleets of five buses or less.

So far, Transport’s major obstacles in the zero-emissions transition have been with the power upgrades required. To combat this, the state has begun power upgrades to convert the necessary depots, with the state government funding all electric bus fleets and required infrastructure, including chargers, as part of the first stage of changes.

Alongside the ordering of new electric buses to meet an increased zero-emissions demand in the city, 11 Sydney depots are being converted to feature battery electric infrastructure technology. Transport says these depots will be tailored to suit operational requirements, with charging options varying from plug-in to pantograph charging.

“TfNSW has been working closely with the industry to understand existing constraints and mitigations in getting the stock to meet our targets,” Milne says.

“In line with NSW government commitments, we’ll progressively increase local content in zero-emissions buses to a 50 per cent target, which will become the minimum requirement from 2027.”

Another key consideration for Transport has been to ensure electric buses delivered are added into the system effectively and smoothly. According to the NSW Bus Industry Taskforce’s second report released earlier this year, approximately $35 million of state-financed bus assets in the form of more than 50 battery electric buses were placed in storage for up to a year due to a lack of required charging infrastructure.

Now advancing on its zero-emissions journey, Transport is ensuring the management of its vehicles and infrastructure will go hand-in-hand to prevent any such issues in the future.

“The management of zero-emissions infrastructure and fleet deployment is a key focus for Transport, and we have learnt a lot from recent orders for locally manufactured battery electric buses being delivered as part of our bus replacement program,” Milne says.

“These buses are being progressively brought into service as battery electric charging infrastructure is installed.

“We are partnering with our operators to ensure the battery electric charging infrastructure being installed at individual depots is tailored to suit the operational requirements, capacity and other constraints within each depot.

“We want to ensure that depots can continue to operate their regular services while the conversion is occurring. This is achieved through working closely with operations to understand their operational needs.”

Queensland has ordered 200 ZEBs


Down in Victoria, the state government and bodies don’t have quite the same plan as seen in NSW, with Victoria regulating that all new public transport buses purchased from 2025 onwards must be zero-emissions.

The state’s goals of achieving net zero-emissions throughout the entire state by 2045 are, according to a Victorian government spokesperson, “world-leading”. This feat requires transitioning roughly 4,500 diesel buses to zero-emissions, with its $20 million, three-year zero-emissions bus trial beginning the process.

The three-year trial ahead of the 2025 mandate has seen 52 zero-emissions buses introduced into fleets, with 50 electric and two hydrogen fuel-cell models running across Melbourne, Traralgon and Seymour. While this trial has helped determine how depot charging will happen, the state is yet to begin a large-scale conversion towards zero-emissions infrastructure.

“Through the trial, we’re exploring the challenges and opportunities that different zero-emissions technologies offer in a Victorian context and sharing that information with the local industry to ensure a smoother and more informed transition,” the spokesperson told ABC.

Queensland has the added challenge of needing to deliver transport for the 2032 Olympic Games

Currently, the state government is developing a Zero Emissions Bus Transition Plan to establish a proposed approach to the transition, including how operators will be supported and what the infrastructure will look like around the bus network. The plan is expected to be released this year before the transition properly begins in 2025.

The Victorian government says it’s considering “various approaches” to funding the transition, with extra funding previously being announced in the 2023-24 Victorian budget to support zero-emissions bus orders. The main example of this was at Ventura Bus Lines’ Ivanhoe depot, which was converted to a completely zero-emissions site featuring 14 dual-gun Tritium fast chargers. Outside of this, the future of the state’s ambitious decarbonisation goals remain unknown until further reports and approaches are made public.

South Australia

In South Australia, the state has already ceased ordering diesel buses, with hydrogen and electric technology being trialled.

“The SA government’s first battery electric bus is in service and another nine are on order,” a SA government spokesperson told ABC.

“In addition, two hydrogen buses are being trialled across the network and a second electric bus is also being trialled by an Adelaide Metro bus operator. The Department for Infrastructure and Transport is finalising a transition plan and business case to support the transition to zero tailpipe emissions in the Adelaide Metro bus fleet.”

South Australia is combining its decarbonisation goals with its bus replacement program. With the state’s department having to replace more than 35 buses per year as part of the program, the orders for new buses will be exclusively zero-emissions from 2025 onwards to ensure a full fleet replacement by 2050.

Currently, the state government says its electric buses can be managed with the existing charging infrastructure within depots. However, with challenges surfacing around the power feed, long-lead infrastructure items and the rollout of infrastructure in an operational depot, the state is now trying to better plan for a sustainable bus future.

“Infrastructure upgrades to achieve the transition represents one of the key challenges and the transition plan and business case directly addresses how the Department will achieve this,” the spokesperson says.

“The infrastructure will then be introduced progressively across the Adelaide Metro bus depots in line with the transition plan.”


The final state to provide an insight into its zero-emissions transition was Queensland, with Transport and Main Roads Minister Bart Mellish telling ABC that the state has set clear targets with the upcoming 2032 Olympic Games on the horizon.

“From 2025, every new bus on the south-east Queensland network will be a zero-emissions vehicle, with the ZEB rollout on our regional network continuing from 2025 to 2030,” Mellish told ABC.

“We have developed a model for the transition to zero-emission buses that supports our bus manufacturing workforce and its transition to zero-emissions technologies.

“We are fully committed to a seamless transition for our fleet and workforce to ensure we reach our emission-reduction targets.”

Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister Bart Mellish

Queensland has already taken a bold step in its overarching plan, with the state government recently announcing it has ordered more than 400 new zero-emissions buses. Through stakeholder partnerships, it’ll own the buses and put them into the network through its operators.

As part of its plan, the zero-emissions bus program will work with Queensland-based manufacturers to build the massive order. New and existing depots will be fitted with the technology required to transition to zero-emissions technology. Mellish says these existing facilities will be critical to a successful rollout, with the department engaging with industry and operators to begin planning for the change before next year.

“The ZEB program aims to reduce bus fleet emissions by up to 80 per cent,” Mellish says.

“In 2021, a trial of battery electric buses started. Translink now has 75 zero-emissions buses being trialled by operators at eight depots across Queensland.”

The state’s goals are clear – it wants to be running on 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and be net zero by 2050.

Much like the rest of Australia, Queensland has sizeable ambitions. The challenge is now whether it can plan the partnering infrastructure to produce a zero-emissions bus network that meets its strict sustainability requirements.

“My department is currently prioritising the delivery of infrastructure to support charging capabilities for zero-emissions buses at existing and new depots throughout south-east Queensland,” Mellish says. 

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